Mercer’s Houzah living up to hype for defense

Mercer defensive back Stephen Houzah (3) had two interceptions against Stetson on Saturday.
Mercer defensive back Stephen Houzah (3) had two interceptions against Stetson on Saturday.

Only two games into his college career, true freshman defensive back Stephen Houzah is proving to be one of the most electric players on the Mercer defense.

In his first game at Five Star Stadium on Saturday against Stetson, Houzah stole the show on defense and special teams as he racked up two interceptions and broke off a long return on the opening kickoff.

“He came in here pretty highly heralded, and I tell you what, he really made some plays out there (Saturday),” head coach Bobby Lamb said of Houzah’s performance.

And although his two interceptions set a program record for a single game, his performance was not simply defined by those turnovers. Houzah was solid in run support during his half of play -- few starters played in the second half -- with two impressive tackles for loss on the edge.

“He made some big-time tackles on the edge,” Lamb said.

The former Lakeside-Evans standout didn’t waste any time making his impact felt. The team’s punt and kickoff returner, Houzah started the game with a bang by fielding the opening kickoff from the goal line and returning it 40 yards down the left sideline.

“I just wanted to set the tone,” Houzah said. “We practiced hard all week. We wanted to come out dominate, and we wanted to start it off, and that felt really good. I was very excited.”

After the Bears took advantage with an opening-drive score, Houzah nearly made the Hatters pay for punting to him after their three-and-out. But his 41-yard punt return was negated by an offside penalty.

Although he said the transition from high school to college has been “a lot different,” Houzah has registered eight total tackles in his first two games with the Bears to go along with his two interceptions. Rather than being nervous for his first home game, he said his older teammates prepared him for his home debut.

“I wasn’t expecting the crowd to be like this,” Houzah said of the experience. “(The older players) were warning me, but it was a good experience, the first game, having everyone here, all my friends and family.”